Samuel Chademana, groundWork climate energy campaigner, and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance tore into the Marine Spatial Planning Bill portfolio committee hearing in Chesterville on Thursday. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi
DURBAN - Fishermen and local non-profit organisations aired their objections to the draft Marine Spatial Planning Bill yesterday at the Chesterville Hall.

The Department of Environmental Affairs recognised the potential of the ocean to create jobs and improve lives. Its current plan to use the ocean’s resources is called Operation Phakisa. Addressing the crowd on Thursday, department representative Radia Razak said they noticed the ocean resources were under a great deal of pressure, particularly in the economic exclusion zone where most human activity took place.

Razak said the bill would help manage the negative impact humans had on the oceans “as our activities to use its resources have not been done in a proper, co-ordinated way”. At present, the various users of marine resources make their own regulations.

The bill applied to South Africa’s territorial waters (12 nautical miles from the baseline) the exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles from the baseline), the extended continental shelf claim and the territorial waters, exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf around the Prince Edward Islands. One nautical mile is about 1.85km.

The bill’s aim is to develop a shared and co-ordinated system of practices and policies which can be used by all parties, to promote sustainable economic opportunities that contribute to the development of the South African ocean economy. This would facilitate good ocean governance, provide for the documentation, mapping and understanding of the physical, chemical and biological ocean processes and opportunities in and threats to the ocean. This would also give effect to South Africa’s international obligations in SA waters.

Chadley Joseph, the South Durban Community Environment Alliance environmental project officer, said KwaZulu-Natal had one of the largest number of subsistence fishermen in the country with many relying on it for income.

Desmond D’Sa, the alliance’s spokesperson, argued the bill would allow for international trawlers to fish in SA waters, oil and gas exploration, sand mining and dumping of chemicals into the ocean from rigs, factories and industries.

“Oil spills in the oceans are not documented, which affects our marine ecosystems. With the reducing role and withdrawal of authority from Ezemvelo, it is clear that the government is unable to police and protect our coastline. The provincial and national departments must ensure that a dedicated enforcement force is set up for our coastline. The current bill benefits only the elite. Our ocean needs more protection, not exploitation,” D’Sa said.

Local fisherman Willie Fog spoke about their plight in getting access to fishing spots, expecially on the harbour piers where the train service has stopped, and walking through to the piers had become restricted. The ground conditions were slippery and dangerous.

“Where is the money from our fishing licences going to? Collectively they are raking in millions. Our piers’ infrastructures are weak and our ‘good’ spots are restricted,” he told the portfolio committee.

Innocent Biyela of Groutville spoke about the laws not benefiting black people and the high prices f or permits to catch and sell fish.

“We are tired of being underpaid for the fish we catch. We want to be self-employed, own our own boats and sell our own fish. The registered companies are making money, not us. The quota system is making it difficult to make a profit, with less money to share among workers because fewer fish are caught.

“We must have our own district offices, not those based in the city which incurs travelling costs for us,” Biyela said.

A representative from Claremont, a scuba diver since 1997, asked for more assistance for scuba divers and how they could benefit from the bill.

Samuel Chademana, groundWork climate and energy campaigner, said the bill put economics above science.

The bill was published for public comment in March last year.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, intends to introduce the Marine Spatial Planning Bill 2017 in Parliament.

Daily News